December 17, 2006

Theoretical origin of "local ecology," part 2 : case example

In the fall of 2004 I wrote a prospectus outlining the idea of "local ecology." You can read part 1 : theory here. Part 2 is presented below. The methodology and conclusions will follow. My concern...is with a planning typology that will address how people view and relate to the urban environment. The typology I propose is based on spatial properties but differs significantly from physical models like new urbanism. In new urbanism, there is an over-reliance on design to dictate behaviour. The theory of new urbanism holds that the “right” physical environment will erase social inequalities. In a counter to the new urbanism argument, Fainstein (2003) stated that the production of the "right" environment appeals to a certain "community" that is not inclusive; this community does not achieve true social dynamism. Civic engagement and social networks cannot be fully achieved through a pre-arrangement of space. Relationships are forged through interactions around visceral experiences and reinforced through “face-time,” that is small and constant exchanges. An example of this idea of small-scale space production is the housing studio organized by Jacqueline Leavitt of UCLA. Leavitt and her students were retained by the Nickerson Gardens housing project tenants’ council to survey tot-lots and laundry services and prepare a financial and design report (Perry 2003). The parents formed a cooperative consensus to focus on the tot-lots and laundry: "of all these issues, the ones that commanded the attention of the residents and convinced them to contract with professional planners to somehow help them bridge the gap between the policy-making administrators, architects, and planners of the Housing Authority of Los Angeles and themselves were tot-lots and laundromats" (Perry, 183). The residents of Nickerson Gardens conducted the surveys themselves and Leavitt et al. presented the information to the housing authority as a physical design and a fiscal plan. It is worthwhile to note two important factors of this project. The residents focused on small-scale spaces: tot-lots and laundromats. Additionally, the leaders of the residential councils collected information from the residents thus reinforcing and creating relationships. Perry noted that the "(social) production of a safe and comfortable home (space)" was more important then the larger physical issues that were cited by Leavitt in her report (Perry, 183). The success of this initiative was based on an identity associated with and organized around a specific place. References Fainstein, Susan S. 2003. Page 183 In Campbell, Scott and Susan S. Fainstein, editors. Readings in Planning Theory. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Perry, David C. 2003. Page 156 In Campbell, Scott and Susan S. Fainstein, editors. Readings in Planning Theory. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

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